Background: Analysis of heart-rate variability (HRV) is a promising new technique for noninvasive quantification of autonomic function. We measured HRV in patients with severe head injury to assess its potential as a monitoring tool.
Methods: Analysis of HRV was prospectively done on all intensive care unit patients. Concurrent data on intracranial pressure (ICP) and cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) were collected. Registry data were reviewed to identify patients with severe head injury, defined as Head/Neck Abbreviated Injury Scale score > or = 4. Mortality, likelihood of discharge to home, ICP, and CPP were compared between patients with abnormal HRV and those without.
Results: Low HRV was associated with increased mortality and decreased rate of discharge to home. Abnormal HRV was associated with episodes of increased ICP and decreased CPP.
Conclusion: Assessment of HRV is a noninvasive method that can be widely used. Abnormal HRV was associated with poor outcome and altered cerebral perfusion. Monitoring of HRV may improve outcome by allowing earlier detection and treatment of intracranial pathology.